A Burntwood man has revealed how he was forced to flee when an angry mob attacked supporters in Marseille after trouble broke out around England’s Euro 2016 match with Russia.
Violent clashes have made headlines around the globe, with UEFA threatening both nations with expulsion from the tournament if there are any further incidents.
Trouble before and after the game saw a number of fans injured.
Birmingham City fan, Paul Dews, was among those forced to flee to avoid getting caught up in the trouble.
“There was a large group of England fans dominating the main port area,” he said. “It was loud but they were in good spirits as I walked through to meet friends two roads back on a square, where I sat for about an hour-and-a-half.
“It was generally quiet with mostly England fans, but also a few Russians. There had a been a couple of run-ins where small groups argued and chased one another into the side roads, but it was generally uneventful.
“Then all of a sudden I saw a few men and women running down a set of steps screaming. Then there was a large group of people who came running down the stairs, so we all got up and started to run when bottles and glasses started crashing around us.
“They were acting in a very organised way”
“As everyone ran from the side road, another group came down the stairs on the adjacent side of the square to ambush them. I don’t know for certain whether they were Russians or locals from Marseille but it felt that they were acting in a very organised way.”
After losing his friends in the panic, Paul took refuge in the back of a business before heading back to the square once the situation had calmed down.
“This was when I saw a person getting CPR at the bottom of the stairs where the people first arrived. There were also people covered in blood and some who had been stabbed,” he said.
“From talking to others I heard stories of similar issues at the other side of the port and a huge ambush by people with mouth guards and all in black at the stadium.”
The match itself was marred by trouble inside the stadium after Russia’s last-gasp equaliser – but the problems were also continuing on surrounding streets.
Paul added: “After the game there were running battles through the town all night as local groups chased everyone around.
“The police were generally useless. There was obviously no plan other than to just keep deploying tear gas.”
Although tournament organisers have threatened both nations over the trouble around the game, Paul believes there are also serious questions to be answered about the staging of the match.
“UEFA have real questions to answer about the flexibility of their draws that allows a game like that to be played in Marseille,” he said.
“There was no signage or obvious plan for how they hoped to manage the crowds and there were too few police. Their plan seemed only to be reactionary rather than about control.”